Thursday, December 6, 2012

You know it's time to get feedback on a manuscript when...

1. You think your book is perfect and ready to send out on submission.

2. Your book is like the opposite of perfect: a steaming dung-heap of inane words and trite phrases.

3. If you don't hear something nice about your writing soon, you might stab your eye out with a pen.

Seriously, how do you know?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Because I've moved a fair amount in my writing career, I've been in and out of all different types of critique groups. They've all been incredibly useful (except for one, which I quickly abandoned!). It's so hard to see writing with clear eyes, especially when you've spent months (or even years!) on it. And sometimes I really just want a pat on the back, and someone to tell me my story is good--that can be enough of a boost to last for for several weeks.

But I've also found even the wisest and best-intentioned advice can turn my mind into a complete muddle. If my story's plot, setting, world-building, and characters aren't yet solid, advice can take me down a totally different path than my creative mind had intended. And while being open to limitless possibilities might sound like a good thing, I have to stay true to my vision--after all, it's the only vision I have!

So lately I've become much more stingy with my writing. As I'm developing an idea, I try to keep my mouth tightly sealed with my dearest writing friends, even with my husband. As the writing progresses, I'll sometimes share individual chapters with critique groups, and welcome feedback on a scene's pacing, tension, and character development. But while one of my most trusted readers has been bugging me for months about getting a peak at the whole of Project Fun, I only sent it to her last week, when I knew I had a complete, coherent draft I fully believed in. And yet I still worry I sent it out too early!

Maybe I should've waited until I truly thought the manuscript was perfect, until I couldn't imagine anything else I could fix. But then it might be too late for me to take any advice on board; even small things like scenes and dialogue might become so set in stone that they're impossible to change.

Feedback is always a balancing act. Over time, I've learned to trust my process and vision more--but of course that doesn't mean I'm always right! When do you look for feedback on your writing?


  1. Interesting post Anne. I've done it both ways. I've written a novel while in a critique group and this current one, I've written on my own.

    I think having different ideas are good when you're in the middle of it but also confusing. I found that I did a lot of "back and forth" when I wrote a novel while in a critique group (I wrote it literally chapter by chapter).

    I've found with this novel project that actually knowing what I think my book is about first helps a lot -- because then I can see which advice makes sense. You still need to open to different views but when you know more about what you're trying to do it helps a lot!

    1. It sounds like you and I have come to similar conclusions, Karen, except your first novel was even more heavily critiqued than anything I've ever written! It does help to know what you're trying to do first--but I miss the feedback and constant encouragement, too.

  2. Very interesting. I don't know that you ever "know." Perception is a tricky thing. But I'm sure I know when feedback hits the nail on the head. It's one of those powerful "got it" moments.

    1. Yes. Though sometimes it takes me a few days to realize I "got it". I'm stubborn like that. ;)

  3. Great post, Anne! Personally I'm at the #2 & #3 stage right now. But I know what you mean. In the past I've always liked to wait until a MS was as good as I could possibly make it before letting anyone read it. But now, because I'm part of a critique group that expects each member to submit something every six weeks, I find myself sending stuff out for feedback at much earlier stages. I'm pretty good at trusting my gut, wading through the feedback, taking what works and discarding the rest. Yet, sometimes, I wonder if I just make things harder on myself by opening that can of worms too soon. Yeeesh.

    1. Thanks, Ruth. It's such a balancing act, isn't it? I definitely prefer getting feedback earlier, and knowing if I'm going down a strange path. But at the same time, sometimes I think I still need to go down those paths... Definitely a can of worms!


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